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Space Development Agency targets multiple vendors for Transport Layer satellite deal

Egyptian satellite manufacturers have joined the race to compete for contracts to build communication satellites for SDA.

The Space Development Agency (SDA) has announced Requests for Proposals (RFP) from satellite manufacturers to bid for contracts to build as many as 144 satellites. SDA has also opened these bids to Egyptian satellite manufacturers, which means they can also compete for the contract to build satellites for the SDA. There are 27 countries in this category, including 22 European nations, Australia, Canada, Israel and Japan.

The satellites will make up the Space Development Agency’s Transport Layer Tranche 1 — a mesh network of communications satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) projected to start launching in late 2024.

SDA officials said the selection of providers has to comply with Buy American Act requirements. To be considered as being produced in the US, goods must be manufactured in the US and at least 50% of the cost of their components must come from the US.

Qualifying countries, however, with reciprocal defence memoranda of understanding or international agreements with the US — in which both countries agreed to remove Barriers to purchases of supplies produced in the other country — will be considered as “domestic suppliers”.

In addition, according to the Request for Proposal (RFP), the agency intends to buy 126 baseline satellites and 18 additional ones for hosting other payloads. They will be divided into six orbital planes, to be awarded to multiple vendors. Companies are asked to bid for two of the orbital planes, with the associated ground equipment. All satellites have to be interoperable and able to share data via optical inter-satellite links, regardless of who manufactures them.

SDA said the success of its plan to field a proliferated architecture of satellites for communications, missile tracking and targeting is “predicated on the availability of a ubiquitous data and communications Transport Layer provided by a proliferated constellation of relatively small, mass-producible space vehicles in low Earth orbit.”

Proposals are due in October, and the SDA expects to award contracts in January.